The seventh of eight observations on a recent Caribbean cruise.
Resting between courses at our first formal night in the dining room, we are accosted gently by someone other than our (two!) waiters. Would we like to book a meal at one of the (extra cost) specialty restaurants?
Heading out for a few hours on shore, we are accosted gently by a member of the ship’s bartending staff. Would we like to buy chilled, bottled water to take on our excursion? Even before the built-in 15% gratuity, it’s more than double what we will eventually pay onshore.
Walking along the dock, we are accosted gently by two engaging young people from the activity staff. For a small fee, would we like a picture of us in front of the ship, to remember the day?
Lots of things are included in the base price of the cruise; lots more are extras. Pictures. Shore excursions. Alcoholic beverages. Soft-drink and juice packages. Internet minutes. Specialty meals. Fancy gelato and coffee. Movies on demand. Wine and whiskey tastings. Casino games. Spa services. Laundry.
The business model is familiar: the hotel whose profitability requires renting out special-event space, not just bedrooms; the dining room that prices the entrees as loss-leaders, hoping to also sell the higher-margin appetizers, drinks, and desserts; the hair salon that makes the rent not just by cutting hair but by selling hair treatments and hair care products.
The cruise line folks do it superbly well. The base price includes enough food and entertainment to satisfy; the extras usually offer decent value. And the Accosters—those focused on moving the money from my pocket to theirs—are unfailingly pleasant. The consistency of both effort and pleasantry bespeaks an impressive management discipline.
As we move through the Caribbean, the view changes with the location, but two things stay the same. The wind keeps blowing, and the crew keeps selling.
Note: The structure of the first seven of these eight observations was inspired by Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.